Gardaí availing of free admittance to nightclubs and events or who receive discounts in fast-food takeaways and restaurants are engaging in corruption, all members of An Garda Síochána have been warned.
The new definition of Garda corruption has been set down at a time when suspensions from An Garda Síochána are at a record high.
Some 67 members of the Garda force were suspended from duty at the end of last month pending the outcomes of various investigations. This was more than double the 32 personnel suspended when Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was appointed in September 2018. He is regarded within the force as a disciplinarian and was appointed to steer a major Garda reform programme.
A document circulated within the force by Garda headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, has now set down a very broad definition of corruption as the new Garda anti-corruption unit begins operations.
The unit, which has been introduced by Mr Harris, is a new departure for An Garda Síochána, though the briefing document to gardaí says such units are "standard in other police services".
The unit will investigate reports of alleged Garda corruption but will also be proactive in seeking to identify corruption, including plans to test Garda members for drug use.
It is headed by Chief Supt Johanna O'Leary, under the remit of Assistant Commissioner Pat Clavin, who is in charge of governance and accountability in the Garda.
The new briefing document sent to Garda members defines corruption as “the abuse of a position of trust in order to gain an undue advantage”.
Not all of the “gain” is financial or even material in nature as “abuse of authority” is regarded as corruption. Garda members have been told that the “intentional omission or embellishment of evidence in a court case or investigation file” also amounts to corruption.
Turning a blind eye
Other acts of corruption, as defined by Garda headquarters, include accepting payment or other reward for “turning a blind eye” or claiming payment for “time not worked or expenses not accrued”.
The document says corruption includes: “Abuse of authority by Garda personnel, including receiving material gain without breaking the law eg. free entry into events and nightclubs, discounts from takeaways/restaurants.”
Cancelling fines or not issuing summonses is also listed as an example of corruption, as is stealing from people under arrest or from victims.
Using illegal drugs is also listed as a corrupt practice, as is the abuse of power for sexual gain.
Other forms of corruption listed by Garda headquarters include: receiving gifts from the public or victims without declaring them; obtaining personal gain by “referring business to particular persons or companies”; sharing confidential information with colleagues, friends, criminals and others.